Space Battleship Yamato: The Movie (1974) — Battlestar Blazers

“One minute to warp. Fasten seat belts.”

Sue’s rating: Those were the days…

Sue’s review: Gather close children, and I’ll tell you a tale. A tale of a time when cable was inaccessible to the vast majority of the United States, when antennas stood tall and proud on every rooftop and television offered approximately seven channels for your viewing pleasure. If you were lucky. The letters DVD, if used in conversation, would most likely have been construed as a reference to an embarrassing social condition, and VCR’s were a new trend among the wealthy. For the middle-class, not being home for a television show meant simply that you’d miss it. Maybe there’d be a rerun. Someday. Possibly not. Those were hard times.

Oh for heaven’s sake, would someone help pry Drew out of his fetal position and give him a glass of water or something? The weeping is a just a little distracting. Thank you.

It was a time such as this when our heroine, young Sue (“Mom, would you please stop calling me Susan!”), made a wonderful yet terrible discovery.

I was kept home from school in… oh it was probably around 1979, with the poison ivy rash to end all poison ivy rashes. Drugged with benedryl, face slathered in calamine war paint and wearing socks on my hands in a futile campaign to stop scratching, I stumbled across a new and incredible way to kill brain cells in front of the TV. It was called Star Blazers.

Star Blazers was MUCH more than the standard Bugs Bunny or Underdog (Is it a bird, is it a plane, is it a frog?) cartoon fare. It was drama, excitement, explosions and some wicked cool weaponry on a historical, yet totally updated, platform. (The resurrected WWII Japanese battleship Yamato.) It had all the goodness of that new fad Star Wars, a warping system reminiscent of, but much more complex than, Star Trek and a generous smattering of saving humanity, all set in a lovely and addicting serial format.

The main characters tended to have abnormally large eyes, gravity defying hair, and the females among them made Barbie look like a pudgy old hausfrau. Yes my children, this was animé, post-Speed Racer and pre-Sailor Moon. Star Blazers, along with the equally nifty (and much lighter hearted) G-Force, was the animé of my coming-of-age.

The crux of the story was that Earth was under attack by the vicious, nasty Gamilons. Everyone had already moved underground, the oceans had dried up and there was only had one year left before the subsequent radiation permeated the planet deep enough to wipe out the entire population. Radiation was our big heebie-jeebie of the time, by the way, right along with Mutual Assured Destruction in the heyday of the Cold War.

In a last ditch effort to save humanity, the rusting hulk of the Yamato was restored, fitted with a seriously studly “Wave Motion Engine”, made spaceworthy, and dispatched to the planet Iscandar which supposedly offered salvation in the form of a Radiation Cleaning Device. Star Blazers, chopped into tasty half-hour segments, followed the adventures of the Yamato (also called the Argo) on that mission.

It was different than anything I’d seen in cartoon format before and it totally and remorselessly sucked me in. The downside — the terrible, horrible downside — is that for the first several months of my addiction, the show aired at 2 pm, and I didn’t get home from school until 4. You can imagine my agony. Summer vacation and a revised program schedule would come along just in time to save my sanity… but I will admit to you (and only you) that I conned my own dear Mother into letting me stay home from school sick on at least three occasions so that I could find out what happened to the Argo and crew before the new schedule let me off the hook. Please don’t tell her!

Anyway, in a fit of nostalgia, I typed Star Blazers into a web search. Lo and behold, I discovered that I could rent the original movie, Space Battleship Yamato and reunite with the addiction of my past. This I did, with all due haste.

Wow. All I was missing was my glass of Tang!

I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised to find out that while Space Battleship Yamato is Star Blazers, Star Blazers isn’t exactly Space Battleship Yamato. While the animation was exactly the same, and the plot followed dutifully along with memory lane, Yamato didn’t bother with things like English overdubbing or Anglicized names. Nope, this was sub-title city and my well-remembered heroes, Derek Wildstar and Mark Venture were suddenly referred to as Kodai and Shima respectively. Hai! Hey, I’m not complaining. The show is Japanese after all. My memories might be the product of an appeasement to the American market… but such is life.

The downside of Space Battleship Yamato: The Movie, is that it’s really nothing more than a condensed, compressed, folded, spindled and stomped on version of the original serialization. While the movie shows the highlights in their entirety, there are plenty of places where happy Mr. Narrator steps in and feeds out infuriating exposition along with some choppily cropped instant replay type film. Things along the lines of, and this is a real quote: “To avoid Gamilus attacks, Yamato hid in the asteroid belt that used to be Minerva. Using polarity reactor they shielded her with debris. They hid in a ring of asteroids and so escaped from the solar system.”

GAAAH!

So really, compared to the series, Space Battleship Yamato: The Movie, is a little disappointing, although certainly worth watching just for the beautiful animation and stunning backdrops. At the time, this was cutting edge stuff and I think it holds up darned well. (You can keep your pokey-yugi-sailor whatsis. This is my turf!)

Be warned, even in the condensed version, it’s a pretty long flick at two hours and fifteen minutes. If you’re interested in the era, but don’t have a few weeks to spend watching the serial, by all means rent it. But I know that the series itself is also available for rental and I highly recommend it. I’ve already got it in my queue!

Didja notice?

  • The standard military uniform of 2199 includes bellbottoms and very possibly platform shoes.
  • The rather complex explanation of warping.
  • The Wave Motion Gun. Coolest. Weapon. Ever.
  • Warping looks like a bad acid trip and leaves you passed out in your chair. Or is that a good acid trip? Oh well, it was made in the 70’s. I’m sure they knew.
  • If Stasha of Iscandar had any cleavage, her dress might have given the movie an NC-17 rating.
  • When the fighters take off from the Gamilus carrier decks, they drop just a little before gaining altitude. Considering that space has no gravity, this is a little silly.
  • Planet Gamilus looks like cheese gone very wrong.
  • It was snowing on Mars.
  • There was some pretty dense foliage on Jupiter, right up until they tested the Wave Motion Gun.
  • When the captain has drinks served to the crew, they all gasp – assuming that they’re about to embark on a kamikaze mission. He actually has to tell them this isn’t the case.
  • Crash landing in methane and sulphuric oceans probably voided the warranty.
  • The Yamato’s shields are more reminiscent of a rolltop desk than Star Trek technology.

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